When Politics Trumps Science: Generalizations from a Career of Research on Assessment, Decision Making, and Public Policy

By Ysseldyke, Jim | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, December 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

When Politics Trumps Science: Generalizations from a Career of Research on Assessment, Decision Making, and Public Policy

Ysseldyke, Jim, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


I sincerely appreciate the recognition of NASP and my colleagues on being permitted to give the 2009 Legends in School Psychology address. I start by acknowledging that my accomplishments are really the accomplishments of many. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to work with highly talented colleagues and graduate students. They have supported and enriched the work. My mentors, T. Ernest Newland and John Salvia, deserve special recognition, as do my colleagues Sandra Christenson, Martha Thurlow, and Bob Algozzine. Many of my ideas came from them, though I stand solely responsible for the content of this paper.

In this paper, I will provide an overview of the focus of my research and professional activity, talk about the context for the work, provide a set of generalizations based on research findings and experiences, and talk briefly about my view of the future of assessment, decision making, and public policy influenced by and resulting from it.


The focus of my research has been on at-risk students, struggling students, and students who are failing. The work has been driven by two fundamental purposes: enhancing the competence of individual students, and building the capacity of systems (schools, churches, community agencies, families,andprofessionals) to meet student's needs. The work is designed to take students where we find them (no matter what their current level of functioning) and take action to enhance their academic and social competence. Within this view, we strive to make everyone better and to move them toward the goals or outcomes we, they, professionals, or society in the broadest sense hold for them. Examples of the kinds of research questions that have driven my work and that of my colleagues include:

* How can we assess students' skills in a technically adequate way?

* What treatments, interventions, or instructional approaches work best to enhance the competence of "at-risk" and struggling students?

* How can we intervene to change the system so that those we serve and others like them improve? (What prevention, school organization, home-school collaboration, effective instruction, school-wide discipline, etc. work?)

* How do we decide, out of all the students struggling in schools, the ones who are eligible for special services?

* How can we use assessment information to plan effective instructional programs?

* Do specific testing accommodations (e.g., reading the math test) alter the validity of a test?

* What are the consequences of high-stakes assessments?

* To what extent do technology-enhanced assessment systems improve progress monitoring?

* What should training and practice in school psychology look like?

The research findings are drawn from a number of funded centers, institutes, and projects. These include the Minnesota Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities, our Enrollment Options Studies (charters, alternative schools, and open enrollment), the National School Psychology Inservice Training Network housed at the University of Minnesota, a set of projects on Efficacy of Technology- Enhanced Progress Monitoring Systems, a project on consequences of the Assessment Provisions of IDEA, and one on the Consequences of NCLB for Students and Systems. All of these were endeavors I directed, but all also were staffed by highly capable researchers and graduate students.


It is always critical for us to remember that the United States is the only nation that strives in its educational endeavors for a dual mission: excellence and equity. The U.S. view of school improvement is that it requires articulation ofhigh standards, rigorous assessment of progress toward those standards, and teacher and school accountability for student achievement as reflected in test scores.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

When Politics Trumps Science: Generalizations from a Career of Research on Assessment, Decision Making, and Public Policy


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?